Retail Insider Breakfast – Michael Ward, MD, Harrods



Retail Insider held its latest Breakfast Event with Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, who outlined how much of the success of the department store is down to the uncompromising focus on its wealthy core audience.

In order to differentiate the business and attract the small group of the most affluent people from around the world he says it is necessary to “have a singular thought process that is fundamentally focused on premium price luxury and to invest heavily in having total authority on certain categories” like fine jewellery.

Senior executives from Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, John Lewis, Kurt Geiger, British Land, and Harvey Nichols were among those who heard how this authority can only be achieved by constant investment.

Ward highlighted how it is too easy to “shirk the difficult decisions” on constantly changing the store’s luxury rooms – that house the upmarket brands – but it is this that appeals to its customers who will fly in to purchase unique items in high quality surroundings.

He told those gathered in the private dining room at The Delaunay in London that although the majority of the store’s customers are from overseas its local customer base has also continued to grow as it has maintained its percentage share of overall customer numbers.

As well as enjoying growing in-store sales Ward also highlighted the increasing trade that is derived from the Harrods online store – with as much as 30% of its orders being shipped overseas.

This expansion of the channel prompted Ward to initiate a digital transformation project in January involving a major investment on IT that will ultimately enable Harrods to have single views of its stock and customer journeys across all channels.

Among other things this should give the company much more powerful analytics capabilities that could drive improved cross-selling opportunities and provide the prompt for the initiation of intelligent marketing communications that will drive customers into the store.

However, it is not just about the store as Ward revealed that Harrods has a publishing arm that produces 40 titles per year, which are aimed at different groups and markets around the world. This further highlights the company’s singular focus on the core affluent grouping wherever they might reside around the world.

Retail Insider would very much like to thank Michael Ward and the morning’s sponsors K3 Retail,  Atos Worldline and Bond Dickinson. Without their much appreciated support this event would not have been possible.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider